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Politicians Are Hard To Trust : Part 1

Posted Oct 02 2008 3:15pm


Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

It is getting harder and harder for senior citizen on Medicare to find a physician who takes Medicare patients. Many physicians are not taking Medicare reimbursement because the government continually decreases reimbursement. In many cities Medicare reimbursement is lower than the overhead of the physicians’ office practice. This year a 10.6% reimbursement cut is due to go into effect July 1st. The 10.6% decrease in reimbursement for physicians is irrational thinking. Physicians collect only 20% of the healthcare dollar. A ten percent decrease in physician reimbursement will save the government only 2% of its healthcare expenditures. The 10.6% means a lot to the practicing physician. The government should be concentrating on who collects the other 80%. It should be figuring out how it can decrease the other 80% of its expenditures.

Texas physicians and the Texas Medical Association are usually pretty proud of their Republican Texas Senators. The Senators have recognized the importance of standing up for patients and their physicians. However, on June 26th 2008 Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison broke their promise to protect our senior citizens ability to obtain Medicare coverage from a physician of their choice. After the house of representative passed a bill 355 to 59, the senate failed to pass it by one vote. Either Texas Senator could have altered the outcome.

“Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison last night chose to protect insurance companies’ profits instead of protecting our patients’ health. All Texas physicians should be deeply offended by their decision, and we need to let them know exactly how we feel.”

They voted against the bill to forestall the looming 10.6-percent cut in physicians’ reimbursement. The Senate bill fell one vote short of being passed. Either Texas senator could have made the difference. They played partisan politics with our patients’ health. They also voted to defend unnecessary overpayments to certain Medicare Advantage health plans. The private Medicare Advantage plans have been ripping off seniors for years. Finally, something was going to be done about the proposed reduction in physicians reimbursement. Our Texas Senators let us down after promising to support us.

You can contact both senators at these telephone numbers or email addresses and ask them to change their vote.
• Sen. John Cornyn: (202) 224-2934

http://cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm

• Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison: (202) 224-5922

http://www.senate.gov/~hutchison/contact.html

John Cornyn is up for reelection. He is begging patients and physicians for their vote. He is up against an underfunded Democratic underdog. I do not think Senator Cornyn thinks an underfunded underdog can beat him. I think he might be in for a big surprise. I do not think Texans want to vote for someone who does not defend effective patient care.

It is up to the politicians to keep their promises and defend their voters. This is especially true when it comes to patient care.

I am positive he does not understand what has to be done to repair the healthcare system. It is not cutting physicians’ reimbursement. It is changing the healthcare system as I have outlined.

“ Resolution 6331 flew through the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week. It stalled in the Senate last night. The bill would:

• Stop the cut, continue current rates for the rest of this year, and provide an additional 1.1-percent increase in 2009;
• Give Congress 18 months to devise a long-term replacement for the sustainable growth rate financing formula, as we demand in TMA’s Texas Medicare Manifesto;
• Extend the Geographical Practice Cost Index, which protects physicians practicing in most of Texas; and
• Provide parity for Medicare mental health benefits and increase coverage for preventive services.”

The great disappointment to me is you can not trust politicians. Yet at election time they will say anything to get our vote.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a nice woman. She is planning to run for Governor of Texas. It will be very difficult for me to vote for someone who goes back on her word.

I am writing to my senators about my outrage. Will you?

Our vote is a powerful tool. We must use it wisely.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.




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